Actresses, dancers, singers and poets Dran Hamilton (left) and Tani Guthrie revel and inspire in their "Two Views" of life. Photo by Phil Houseal
by Phil Houseal
If you have lived in Fredericksburg for any length of time since 1993, chances are good you have met Tani Guthrie and Dran Hamilton. Maybe in the aisles of the grocery store. Or volunteering at the Pioneer Museum's Fassel House ("Be sure you tell them to pronounce it 'fass-el' not 'fossil!'" they told me. You never know if they are serious. They never are.)
What d'ya mean - let's go?
Let's get outta here.
But you have never really seen Tani and Dran.
Recently, members of the Gillespie County Historical Society had the privilege of experiencing these ladies in their milieu. For the first time in 15 years, Tani and Dran agreed to publicly perform selections from their Broadway play "Two Views."
That is right. Broadway.
Go? We can't get outta here!
The ladies have had a remarkable journey. Several, really. And they continue to live a remarkable life. During a visit in their kitchen at Thistle Hill Manor, I had a tantalizing peek behind the curtain of their careers. For two hours, they teased me with hints of acting with Olivier, starring on Broadway, lunches with T.S. Elliot and travels with Dag Hammarskjold, and covers of Life magazine.
Well, then, move over.
I am over.
Well, move over-er!
But they do not wish to dwell on dramas done. In 1993, they decided to turn their backs on that part of their life. They came to the hill country, shedding like serpent skins the idolatry, sycophants, and egos.
I'm hitting the wall, as it is.
So am I.
Did I mention they are twins?
"We are poets," Tani said. "Actually, Dran is prose, I am poetry."
I wonder what's happened to us.
They began weaving a new life. Literally. Creating wool pots from whole cloth and handspun wool.
Even in their existential exile, the universe dared not make them invisible. Draped in flowing dress, scarved and bejeweled, they move through the produce section with grace and "alacrity" (to use some of their own stage direction). They speak with cut and culture, they touch, they listen. They find your eye. They finish each other's sentences. They breathe!
I think we've grown.
Grown? What does that mean?
I don't know - grown - my head's bigger than it used to be.
They discuss for several minutes whether the word "elevate" or "inspire" is the correct verb I should use to describe the effect of their performance. They engage you - you become a third of their "Two Views."
They have brilliance, without the glare. As I exited my car, I was listening to opera. "What," I ask the ladies as they come to welcome me to Thistle Hill, "is the song that opens the third act of Rigoletto?"
"La donna è mobile!" they warble in simultaneous exultation. They begin to sing it.
By the way - your elbow is in my rib again - okay?
Oh, sure. That better?
How can one describe a presence? Naturally, they do it best themselves.
"...actresses and smartasses."
I've got great news! I can see the way outta here!*
*Excerpts from "Two Views" by and with Dran Hamilton and Tani Guthrie. Used with permission.